Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Review based on ARC (Advanced Review Copy received for free in exchange for an honest review).

The Roanoke Girls is set up as some kind of mystery  (by the book - from synopsis on back of book) -- Lane Roanoke's mother commits suicide, so Lane comes to live with her grandparents and cousin Allegra in a small town in Kansas. Lane "discover[s] the dark truth at the heart of the family" and runs away. Years later, when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing, Lane returns to figure out what happened to Allegra -- did she run? or "something worse"? Lane must now face the "secret" that made her flee while she attempts to discovery Allegra's fate and, at the same time, maneuver the relationships with her grandparents, friends, and ex boyfriend that she left behind.

Well, the "secret" is not really a secret -- although it is not explicitly discussed early in the book, it is fairly obvious what it *is* fairly early in the book. Although I don't give spoilers, I will say that this garners "trigger warners" for some readers. Fortunately, Engel did not feel the need to go into too much detail with her descriptions, for which I commend her. Although it is obvious what is happening, when, and with whom, the heart of the story isn't Engel's ability to shock her reader, but, rather, in her ability to explore one girl's response to such behavior.

I was impressed with the way Engel delved into a sticky and difficult area and show her readers how some would respond in such an extreme situation -- both the common and the uncommon responses. Although I thought some of Lane's thought processes were a bit repetitive and redundant at times (not so much in her *thinking* repetitively, which is likely, but in her presentation of the "shocking secret" as such to the invisible reader in an oddly redundant way), and although I probably would have liked a little more of the snippets we receive into the thoughts of various other characters, overall I thought that this was a great read. Uncomfortable at times, yes but worthwhile and definitely readable.

As for Engel's writing style, I found that I was immediately engaged in the story and found myself itching to return to the book until I was finished reading it. At a time in my life when I am otherwise rather preoccupied, this was a noteworthy feat! Recommended as a quick read with a touch of mystery (what happens to Allegra, not what the so-called "secret" is), a touch of romance, a touch of dismay, and a touch of hope. FOUR of five stars.